Associate Professor of Biochemistry Associate Professor of Dermatology
Primary Office: 4-470 BSB
Iowa City, IA 52242


BA, Chemistry, The College of Wooster
PhD, Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

Post Doctorate, Molecular & Cell Biology, University of North Carolina

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry PhD
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Translational Biomedicine
Medical Scientist Training Program

Research Summary

Cell-cell interactions affect many aspects of cell behavior, including growth, differentiation and the establishment of normal tissue architecture. Loss of expression or function of components present in cell-cell interactions has been found in carcinomas and correlates with poor prognostic outcome in cancer patients. Cells have several mechanisms for linking to their neighbors. These so-called "cell junctions" consist of proteins that assemble into different structures such as gap junctions, tight junctions, adherens junctions, desmosomes and hemidesmosomes, each with specialized functions. Cell-cell junctions of the zonula adherens are prominent in epithelia and are rich in transmembrane adhesive receptors known as cadherins. The cytoplasmic tail of cadherins binds numerous proteins that serve as molecular couplers, linking cell surface adhesion and recognition to both the actin cytoskeleton and cell signaling pathways. A major focus of the work in my lab is to understand cellular mechanisms involved in assembly and maintenance of cell-cell adhesions by examining the function and regulation of proteins recruited to the cytoplasmic face of cadherins.

Selected Publications

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Jannie K, Ellerbroek S, Zhou D, Chen S, Crompton D, García A, DeMali K.  Vinculin-dependent actin bundling regulates cell migration and traction forces..  The Biochemical journal.  2015 February 1. 465(3):383-93. 

Mahauad-Fernandez W, DeMali K, Olivier A, Okeoma C.  Bone marrow stromal antigen 2 expressed in cancer cells promotes mammary tumor growth and metastasis.  Breast Cancer Res.  2014. 16(6):493. 

DeMali K, Sun X, Bui G.  Force transmission at cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesions.  Biochemistry.  2014. 53(49):7706-17. 

Biggs L, Naridze R, DeMali K, Lusche D, Kulh S, Soll D, Schutte B, Dunnwald M.  Interferon regulatory factor 6 regulates keratinocyte migration.  J Cell Sci.  2014. 127(13):2840-8. 

Bays J, Peng X, Tolbert C, Guilluy C, Angell A, Pan Y, Superfine R, Burridge K, DeMali K.  Vinculin phosphorylation differentially regulates mechanotransduction at cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesions.  J Cell Biol.  2014. 205(2):251-63. 

Maiers J, Peng X, Fanning A, DeMali K.  ZO-1 recruitment to α-catenin: a novel mechanism for coupling the assembly of tight junctions to adherens junctions.  Journal of cell science.  2013 June. Epub ahead of print. 

Johnston J, Wen K, Keppler-Noreuil K, McKane M, Maiers J, Greiner A, Sapp J.  Functional Analysis of a De Novo ACTB Mutation in a Patient with Atypical Baraitser-Winter Syndrome.  Human mutation.  2013 May. Epub ahead of print:doi: 10.1002/humu.22350. 

Webb D, Brown C, DeMali K.  Signals regulating adhesion dynamics.  Journal of signal transduction.  2012 December. 2012:785196. 

Peng X, Maiers J, Choudhury D, Craig S, DeMali K.  α-Catenin uses a novel mechanism to activate vinculin.  The Journal of biological chemistry.  2012 March. 287(10):7728-37. 

Demali K, Adams J.  Cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions.  Molecular biology of the cell.  2012. 23:965.